Good times returned to the U.S. beer industry in 2012, and great times continued for the vast majority of Americas 2,347 craft breweries.
Given the continuing economic doldrums and persistently high unemployment since 2009, it might be easy to start thinking of craft beer as “recession-proof.” But is it?
Two hundred and fifty breweries opened in the United States in 2011, providing one of many bright spots in a year in which craft brewer volumes grew 13%.
Craft brewpubs turned out 768,536 barrels of beer in 2011, a 5.6% increase over the 727,547 barrels produced in 2010.
In 2011, the headlines were about new local breweries, ongoing growth, and the hundreds of breweries in planning. The sheer number has become a conversation itself.
Almost every regional craft brewery seems to have either undergone a major expansion or has drawn up blueprints for a build-out. Also, 11 more breweries joined the category.
New breweries are popping up nationwide almost every week now. But the real news in this wave of recent growth may actually be that the “old breweries” are getting bigger.
The big brewers in 2011 seem to have woken up and at least have recognized the challenges posed by craft beer, spirits, wine, and non-alcoholic energy drinks.
During the late 1990s, when craft beer growth slowed to single digits, many breweries who branched out into distant territories now find that they overextended themselves.
It isn’t too great a leap to wonder whether contracts could prove to be the lifeblood of the next wave of craft growth, or at least play a more significant role going forward.